Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Radical Principle (18)

Before launching into a discussion of civil government, Paul states a powerful principle.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21).
Although this principle restates Jesus command to turn the other cheek, its wider implications are not well understood. Paul is saying that we must not use evil means to overcome evil, even when dealing with the problem of order in society.

Most political authority involves forcing people to do things against their will. However, God gave us freedom, so forcing people to do things they do not wish to do is evil, even if it is done for maintaining order in society.

God does not force people to obey him. He prefers that people do his will, because they love him. Forcing people to be good has no place in the Kingdom of God.

Modern government are based around the use of force.

  • People are forced to obey whatever laws passed by the politicians in power.
  • People are forced to pay whatever rate of tax, the politicians decide to levy.

The use of force is justified by the claim that if people are not restrained by the power of the state, then society will become disorderly. The supporters of political power agree that the use of force is evil, but claim that the evil that would be produced by evil would be even worse. This is essentially an argument for using a lesser evil to overcome a greater evil.

Paul seems to be ruling this option out. If we are only allowed to overcome evil with good, then overcoming evil with a lesser evil is not acceptable.

Romans 12:29 is a radical principle that undermines the basis of all modern governments. If Paul’s words are true, the idea that governments can force people to do things for the good of society is flawed. All systems that force people to do things against their will are illegitimate.

This is why governments have perpetrated so much evil. They are based on a principle that it is morally correct to user a lesser evil to overcome a greater evil.

Democracy is no better. Under democracy, minorities are forced to do what the majority decide. This is not freedom.

Jesus was adamant that his Kingdom would not be established by force (Matt 26:53,54; John 18:36). Christians should not support any government system that is based on force.

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